Dear Dr. Susan
a Medical Column by Susan Little, DVM

Below is a collection of answers to questions sent to Dr. Susan Little.
This column is intended for informative purposes only.
In the case of a serious health problem, please consult your own veterinarian.


Topic: Periactin
Recently a breeder friend told me about a human drug available in Australia as an over the counter medication called Periactin. This is the brand name, I don't know the generic, or the active ingredient, but she said it was an antihistamine. She told me she used it to stop heats in her girls, especially those prone to pyo. 1/4 of a 4mg tablet followed if necessary by a second dose the next day. This, she said, took them out of heat until the next heat cycle was due. I am wondering if anyone is familiar with this drug? Knows what the active ingredient is? Has heard of its use in this way, or knows if it could be dangerous? Anonymous

Answer: I have heard this before, but it is not written about in any veterinary references. Periactin is the brand name for cyproheptadine, an antihistamine that also has anti-serotonin activity. It is a human antihistamine; by prescription in some countries and nonprescription in others. I think it is not often used for people any more since it causes drowsiness and so many newer antihistamine drugs do not. In cats, Periactin is most often used for two purposes: 1) to stimulate appetite, especially in chronic illnesses or in a recuperative situation 2) for feline asthma; it may be the third drug used (after corticosteroids and bronchodilators) since feline asthma is primarily serotonin-mediated In women, one of the side effects of Periactin is early onset of the monthly menses (period). I'm not sure what mechanism is behind this although it likely is due to some of the vascular effects of the drug. Periactin has no particular hormonal activity so I am not sure if this effect of shortening the duration of heat in cats is real, and if so, how it works. Regardless, it is intriguing

Topic: Giardia
I just bought a kitten from another breeder. The kitten is having problems with loose stools. The problem looks like Giardia. My vet gave her a one time dose of wormer and its not working. I remembered hearing talk of using either Strongid or Panacur. But don't remember which and how much or how often . Thanks so much Lesley

Answer: Strongid is effective against roundworms, hookworms and stomach worms (Physaloptera) in cats. Giardia is treated with either metronidzole (Flagyl) or with fenbendazole (Panacur). About 30% of Giardia isolates are resistant to metronidazole now. Panacur is dosed at 50 mg/kg once daily for 3 days in cats.

Topic: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
I am at my wits end. I had a female develop a uterine infection 3 weeks after being bred. She was treated and has recovered nicely. Now, 2 weeks after I the first female was bred, the same male bred another female and now she has come down with a uterine infection too! Neither girl had any problem before this. I am thinking that the male must have a sexually transmitted disease. Is this possible? Lee

Answer: The time to find out what is wrong is when the miscarriage occurs. STDs are very very rare in cats although they can occur. It would be very unusual for a male cat to be spreading a bacterial infection to females. I would start by having the male examined - see if he has any preputial discharges and do a urinalysis to be sure he does not have a urinary tract infection. He should have a full health exam. Any aborted fetuses or fetal material should be submitted for cultures. You can culture discharges from the queens, but this is sometimes unrewarding - you might just get a positive culture with the normal bacteria present in the vagina. But if the culture is a pure culture of one bacteria - especially E. coli, Strep, Staph, or Salmonella, then it may be the cause of the problem. It also could be that these two queens have metritis or a pyometra that has not been resolved. I would also ultrasound these girls and do a blood panel including a complete blood count. I am assuming that all the cats involved in these have been tested FeLV negative. There are many agents that can be associated with fetal losses. Don't forget that feline herpesvirus (rhinotracheitis virus) can also do this.

Topic: Acyclovir
My son is on chemotherapy and the oncology clinic has mentioned the possibility of having to give him Acyclovir (for viral infections) - don't know if it is a chemical reaction they are worrying about in his case; but, they seem very reluctant to give it unless absolutely necessary. Something about nasty side effects. Is Acyclovir something you want to give to a cat? What are the long-term effects, if any?? Linda

Answer: I am glad you asked this question. Acyclovir (brand name Zovirax) is an anti-viral primarily used in human medicine against herpesviruses. It has been investigated in cats for use against the retroviruses (like FeLV) and FHV-1. The results, however, are disappointing. At therapeutic doses, cats suffer adverse effects from this drug, from vomiting and anorexia to more serious ones like suppression of the bone marrow. When the dose is dropped low enough to avoid side effects, it doesn't kill the virus. A related drug, valacyclovir, has also been investigated with similar disappointing results. We still have a serious lack of anti-viral drugs for cats.

Topic: Folic Acid for a pregnant queen
Is it possible to give a queen small doses of folic acid during pregnancy as an aid to prevent certain types of birth defects in kittens? Ruthie

Answer: A link between folic acid deficiency and birth defects in cats has never been suspected or proven. For that reason, I do not recommend giving folic acid supplements.

Topic: Litters of small newborns
Question: I have had 2 litters from 2 sisters that were very tiny, around 2 to 2 1/2 ozs. They did not nurse, to weak, tried to tube them but they all died in a couple of days. The third sister had 3 and they lived, but I had to tube the smallest one part time. When the eyes started to open I had a terrible time with puss and eye lids sticking together. I have to keep putting in eye cream every few days and they are now 8 weeks old. Do you have an answer to my problems? Would putting the queens on amoxi drops after they are bred help to make stronger, larger kittens? Dee

Answer: Litters of very small kittens are often seen in situations of a chronic infectious disease in the queens. From your description of the eye problems the kittens have had, I would suspect viral upper respiratory tract infection, especially feline herpesvirus. If there have been symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection in the queen, that could help confirm the source of the problem. We know that low birth weight is a very poor prognostic factor for kitten survival. With more than one queen affected in your cattery, it does point to infectious disease.

Topic: Reluctant Female
I am having a lot of difficulty getting a female bred (for the second time). She is a healthy 2y.o.who was successfully bred at 1y.o. by a very aggressive male. She was not very accommodating and actually chased up onto a shelf in the cage,that first time, where the male bred her. I have now sent her out to a different male for a re-breeding. She leaves here on the 2nd day of a strong heat, but gets to him and is not interested. All they do is become "tight buddies" for the entire time she is there. When I get her back home, she again immediately starts calling. I have done this twice now and am at my wits end. I do not have access to another (rapist) to put her with. Is there any medical (hormone therapy) I could resort to keep her in a very strong heat so she would be accommodating to the male, as I am afraid if she keeps cycling with out being bred she will become cystic. I could resort to bringing the male here though it would upset the applecart a bit. He is a very laid back stud. Karen

Answer: Unfortunately, no medical therapy will be helpful to you since this queen is having normal heat cycles. The stress of travel affects ovarian and pituitary gland function and often puts a queen out of heat. Queens should be shipped to the male's location before they are in heat so that the heat cycles are less disrupted. This queen will need to be bred by a very experienced and patient male. Some breeders find that uncooperative queens can be bred using Valerian to calm them. Whatever you end up doing, you should think carefully about breeding this queen. We know that many aspects of reproduction and behavior are heritable. It is not necessarily always desirable to perpetuate the genes of a queen that is difficult to breed. You may simply be passing the problem to the next generation.

Topic: Nursing kittens vomiting
I have a litter of kittens and it seems they occasionally throw up what looks like curdled milk. What causes that? Ellen

Answer: When kittens ingest milk, it forms a clot or curd in their stomach in response to the normal acid environment found there. So when young kittens vomit for any reason, it is often clotted or curdled milk that is produced. Almost always, there is nothing wrong with the queen's milk, although she should be checked to ensure she does not have mastitis.

Topic: Hair Loss in nursing mother
My 3 year old queen is nursing her second litter of kittens. She is losing hair under her chin and the inside of her legs. Its almost bare! I remember when I had my daughter a lot of my hair fell out while I was nursing her. Is it the same thing? Linda

Answer: There is no documented hormonal imbalance or other reason that would cause hair loss in pregnant or nursing queens. Therefore, we investigate all the usual reasons for the hair loss. In most cases, the queen is licking the hair out herself versus it falling out. Your vet can examine some hairs under the microscope to confirm this. Itchiness can cause this type of problem as can stress-related overgrooming. Common allergies can be to food (usually the protein source in the food - beef is a common allergan in cats) or inhaled allergens. External parasites, such as fleas and mites, could also be a cause. I would suggest you have your vet examine this queen and try to find the cause so it can be treated.

Topic: Nebulizer Formula
What is a good nebulizer formula for nursing kittens? I have a few cats and young adults that seem to be having trouble keeping there britches clean after having a bowel movement. It seems to be sticking to their backends. The stools are not diarrhea but kind of loose. Two of these are show cats, what can I do to stop this? Kylee

Answer: In answer to your first question, a nebulizer formula that I like is: 4 ml of sterile saline 25 mg gentamicin 25-50 mg kanamycin Nebulize twice daily. In answer to your second question, I think you should find out why these cats have soft stools. It is not normal for cats to have chronic soft stools and it may indicate a problem is present. For cats you are not showing, it can be helpful to clip the hair around the hind end very short to help keep it clean.

Topic: Breeding Problem
I have a year and half old queen. She had first litter in March of this year. Both kittens immediately died. I got her in May, and immediately had to treat her for pyometra. After treatment she came into heat 2 days after completion of antibiotic. She was bred and just two weeks ago, (about 2 weeks before she was due) she aborted and absorbed the babies. The vet put her on Baytril for 10 days. She has come back into heat two days ago. My question is, do you think she should be bred this heat, or should we wait for her next heat? Does her uterus need time to heal after a aborted litter, or does not breeding her increase her chances of getting pyo again? I feel like we are between a rock and hard space. If you suggest that we go ahead and breed her, should she be on a safe antibiotic during pregnancy and for how long? Nancy

Answer: Whenever a queens aborts or miscarries a litter, several steps should be taken. The queen should be given either oxytocin or prostaglandins to ensure there is no retained material in her uterus. She should also be treated with antibiotics for 4-6 weeks. Any aborted tissues/kittens should be sent for histopathology and cultures in an attempt to find out the cause. At this point, you don't know why this queen is having reproductive problems. I would recommend an ultrasound of her uterus and bloodwork (complete blood count, blood chemistries, FeLV testing if her status is not known). In general, queens that have been treated for pyometra should go through as few heats as possible. The estrogen during each heat causes further changes in the uterus. These queens often end up with cystic endometrial hyperplasia, a degenerative disease of the uterus that has no cure. You should also consider carefully if you do want to breed this queen again. Many aspects of reproductive performance are heritable and I do worry when young queens such as this one have so many problems in a short period of time.

Topic: Folded Ear
: One of my 10 year old cats has lost a lot of weight to the point where he is really just skin and bones. Two vet examinations, blood work, and x-ray have shown no reason. He is active, responsive, and does not appear to be in any pain, does not vomit, and has normal bowel movements. For a while his appetite was much reduced, nearly anorexic. After the vet put him on prednisone he has been eating better, but is not gaining weight. Recently we noticed that the top third of his ears have started folding over. Is this a symptom of something? I'm about to take him in for another examination, but wondered if this indicated something specific that I should ask about. Or could it be a side effect of the prednisone? Any suggestions would be welcome. Luci

Answer: Folding of the tip of the ears is something I occasionally see in cats who are being treated with corticosteroids (like prednisone, dexamethasone, etc) as a side effect of the drug. I'd hazard a guess that your cat has an intestinal problem, likely inflammatory bowel disease, and the prednisone is treating it. You might want to review your cat's dose with your vet. I usually only see the ear tip folding with the higher doses.

Topic: Giardia Vaccine
I am interested in using the Giardia vaccine that everyone was discussing. Is it the same Fort Dodge DOG vaccine that vets are using on dogs? I do remember the part about it showing up on PCR if not in a regular stool exam and that it's safe to use in pregos, nursing and kits? Karen

Answer: We do not yet have this vaccine in Canada, but I believe that the vaccine Fort Dodge has released is labeled for dogs. It has been researched in cats, however. It is important to understand that this vaccine DOES NOT prevent infection. What it does is reduce cyst shedding and reduce clinical symptoms, such as diarrhea.

Topic: Virus
: There seems to be a type of virus going around that starts with what looks like a common cold. In the less severe form cats and kittens simply have tearing eyes and they might sneeze about once or twice a day. I have known of a few very young kittens who have been severely affected, some of whom have died. One of my own kittens now seems to have contracted this virus and is seriously ill. The kitten is nearly 5 weeks old and about 2 weeks ago she acted a bit out of balance and was tottering and falling forward for no reason. Since she was the smallest in the litter she had had a problem getting a fair share of milk at mealtime. I started her on solid food at 3 weeks and she maintained her weight. She was still not very steady on her legs. A weeks ago she developed a severe eye infection and I immediately put her on Tobramycin eye ointment. The infection cleared up in a couple of days. However, she had gradually got worse and is barely able to stand up now. I give her beef broth and goat's milk by syringe while she is lying down. At times she eats canned meat very well and at other times she is not interested. Every morning she is unable to move and is like a dead weight when I pick her up. After getting some liquid nourishment into her she gets a bit more alert and by late afternoon she is able to stagger around for a while. Her stools are normal. One of my friends had a culture done on a kitten she had had with similar> symptoms, and from whom I suspect we picked up the virus. The culture showed that the kitten was sensitive to Baytril and Tobramycin. 2 days ago I put the kitten on Baytril and she is still being treated with Tobrex in the eyes, which I will shortly be discontinuing. One of her litter mates sneezed once this morning and I am concerned that he might also get sick. I have now put the whole litter on Baytril. I would very much appreciate any advice you can give. M

Answer: The clinical symptoms you describe could be consistent with several respiratory infections in kittens, especially herpesvirus, calicivirus and Bordetella. I think Chlamydia is less likely. You mention that a culture was done on a friend's kitten, but not what the results of the culture were. Bordetella can be detected on a routine bacterial culture, whereas herpes and calicivirus cannot and are actually quite difficult to culture. All three organisms can cause severe illness including death in young kittens. In the absence of knowing exactly what the infection is, Baytril is a good choice for treatment. Viral infections will not respond to antibiotic therapy, but there are often secondary bacterial infections accompanying them. If another kitten dies, I would recommend having a full necropsy done. This means sending samples of all body tissues to a pathologist as well as submitting samples (especially of liver and lung) for culture. Often we can't definitely diagnosis the cause of an illness until there is a death and a necropsy can be done. It is essential that tissues be fresh for a necropsy, so if a kitten dies at home, you should refrigerate the body in a plastic bag until you can get it to your vet.

Topic: Birth Sac
We breed Himalayans in London, Ontario, Canada. When the sac is seen during delivery, protruding about 1" out of the queen, and remains like this for 1/2 hour or more, with no further movement during hard contractions,is it okay to break the sac? One breeder has said it is fine to go ahead & break the sac, another said not to, possibly causing a "dry birth". We have had 6 litters born since 1998 and have had this problem twice before. We did not break the sac and went to the emergency vet, after one hour, to have Oxytocin given to the queen to resume contracting, when the queen's contractions stopped altogether. We do know that the kittens heads are quite large in this breed, causing some difficulty. We are always on hand ready to assist the mother cat and on another occasion, had to gently pull on a kit to help her out because it was her first time. We are planning to breed for many years and would appreciate any help that you can give us. Thank you from the Katzanova Cattery ladies.

Answer: You may break the birth sac if you see it appear at the vagina during a difficult delivery. If you are then able to get a grip on part of the kitten and assist in delivery, this could be very valuable. However, if the delivery has stalled because the queen is not having efficient contractions, or because the kitten is stuck and the queen is exhausted, you do need to seek medical attention.

Topic: Baytril and a nursing queen
My Persian mom is on Baytril. Is it safe for her to nurse her 3 four-day-old kittens? Do you know of any research on the topic, and if so how reliable it is? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Anne

Answer: There have been no studies published on Baytril in pregnant or nursing queens that I am aware of. I have seen some unpublished data that shows Baytril. is safe in 8-10 week old kittens and I do use it in sick kittens of any age. We know that it is likely about 2-5% of the drug dose the queen takes will make it into her milk and into the kittens. Perhaps the most common side effect that kittens have when the queen is taking any antibiotic is diarrhea. Using a probiotic might help. I would speak to your vet and see if Baytril is the only drug choice for this queen. We know more about the penicillins and cephalosporins in nursing queens so you could ask if the drug might be changed.

Topic: Kidney Disease
About 5 weeks ago my Seal Point Female became very till - we took her to the vet and she had a serious kidney infection - the original diagnosis was CKF - but all has worked out well no damage etc. now I think our girl is pregnant - we have watched her constantly but when she goes into heat I call it a silent heat since many times there are no visible signs of this - now I am concerned about the babies - I just can't believe this has happened as cautious as we have been and did not plan on breeding her until spring of 2001 - what is your opinion - I do not want to put my Queen's health at risk - she has been doing fine since her release from the hospital but now this . . .Help. Josey

Answer: I think your vet is the best person to ask this question. He or she knows all the facts and lab data about your queen's recent kidney problems and so would be in a better position to know if she can be bred or not. In general, cats who have kidney disease should not be bred, but I don't know enough about your queen's condition to know if this is the case with her or not. We worry more about the effects of the pregnancy on the queen and the stress to her kidneys in this situation than we do about the kittens.

Topic: Ultrasounding for kittens
What's the earliest you can do an ultrasound to detect for kittens? Thanks again! Chris

Answer: The answer to this depends on the ultrasonographer's experience and the equipment. It is theoretically possible to detect pregnancy as early as 14 days after breeding, but the most common time to check is between 25-30 days when ultrasound is over 90% reliable. If a cat is ultrasounded for pregnancy earlier than this and it is negative, she should be rechecked one week later to be sure.

Topic: Griseofulvin and pregnancy
I have a five year old female who has never become pregnant since being treated with Griseofulvicin for Ring worm,which was very mild. However, since then I cannot get her pregnant. She comes into heat regularly, is in good health with no signs of Pyometra. She is excellent quality, fantastic pedigree. Enid

Answer: I doubt the griseofulvin had anything to do with her infertility. It has no permanent effects on reproductive function in female cats. There are many causes for infertility in queens with regular estrous cycles. Unfortunately, in queens who are 5 years old and older, the most common cause is cystic endometrial hyperplasia. This is a progressive disease of the uterus that has no treatment. These queens do ovulate and conceive, but their uterus cannot support the embryos. You can try to find out more about what is going on by determining if this queen is ovulating and if a pregnancy can be detected early. This involves checking her progesterone level one week after breeding (if it is high, she ovulated) and then ultrasounding her at about 25 days to see if there are any embryos. Another potential cause of infertility is endometritis, often caused by a low-grade uterine infection. Before giving up on these queens, I usually recommend they be treated with Clavamox, bred at the next heat, and kept on Clavamox until they are over 1/2 way through the pregnancy.

Topic: Reabsorbing Kittens
I have a 5 year old female whom I have not been able to get kittens from in over a year. She appears to be conceiving, but reabsorbs at about 5 weeks. Some breeders have suggested using Baytril. before breeding. What do you suggest? Dawna

Answer: Look at the answer I gave Enid above. I suggest you try the same protocol with your queen

Topic: Spraying
Question: We have 6 Persians, all of which are spayed/neutered (never used for breeding). They range in age from 3 to 9 years. The 3 yr old, who is the youngest male out of four, has recently started to spray the area around the litter box. (FYI - 3 extra large litter boxes are made available) He still uses the litter box but at least once a day he seems to feel the urge to "mark" this territory. As we have ruled out any physical cause we are fairly confident that the cause is emotional. It seemed to coincide with the arrival of another cat (a rescue kitty with terminal cancer who was kept in his own room as he was too stressed to integrate). We thought that when the rescue kitty crossed "Rainbow Bridge" this boy would calm down; but such is not the case. Physically, he is the second largest of the 6 cats and is definitely the strongest and most athletic (can leap tall cat-posts in a single bound ) Purrsonality-wise he is generally very sweet and gentle, but is easily spooked and he gets tense/nervous in new surroundings. He also seems to have a pretty strong sex drive for a neutered cat - every now and then he will try to go for a "test drive". He usually tries to pick on a smaller male or, on occasion, he will try to get amorous with your arm (let's just say he never gets a chance to get out of "park"...LOL!) To tell you the truth, if I hadn't taken him to the vet myself I would wonder if he really was neutered. Kelly

Answer: Experts will tell you that you should have 1 more litterbox available than the number of cats. If you have 6 cats and only 3 litterboxes, you have half as many as you need. However, since you are describing spraying behavior (marking a vertical object, such as a wall) instead of urinating (where the urine is on a horizontal surface), litter box number may not the central issue (yet !).

It may well be that everything was stable in your group of cats until the sick one arrived. The male who is spraying may not have been able to cope with one more cat and started to express his anxiety by spraying. Just because the sick cat is no longer there does not mean this male is feeling secure enough to stop marking his territory. Whenever a cat starts to spray or urinate out of the litterbox, the first thing to do is have a complete physical exam and a urinalysis done by your vet. In some cases, spraying is a sign of lower urinary tract disease. So it is important to rule this out before working on the behavioral aspects of the problem.

If there is no medical problem, you might want to try Feliway. This feline pheromone spray is able to reduce territorial anxiety in some situations. You could also discuss medication for control of anxiety with your veterinarian. A variety of anti-anxiety medications, such as buspirone (Buspar) are useful in this type of situation. Other behavioral modification therapies might also be useful, such as dividing your group into 2 smaller groups so that there is less tension and pressure due to population numbers. We have to remember that cats do not often live in groups by nature and we ask them to live in situations that they may well find stressful. Smaller groups are often easier for some cats to live in.

Topic: Flagyl and a nursing mom
Can I use Metronidazole (Flagyl) in a nursing mom? ( kits are 5 weeks) Both my books say not to, but my vet didn't really have a problem with this. Thanks in advance, Karen

Answer: I think the general rule of thumb is that you don't want to use any drug in a pregnant or nursing queen unless the potential benefits outweigh any risks. We do not know if metronidazole is excreted in feline milk, but it very probably is. During pregnancy, this drug produces fetal birth defects. My main concern would be the amount of drug the kittens would be getting through the queen's milk. We do know that young kittens are easily overdosed with metronidzole and can suffer neurological problems as a consequence.

Topic: Heartworm
I'm interested in info about Heart worm in cats - diagnostic testing, degree of difficulty in contracting it in a closed cattery where no cats go outside, Symptomology, treatment diagnostic testing and degree of accuracy of the tests. Plus the difficulty in degree of diagnosing, and odds of a misdiagnosis. In other words, how do you diagnose heat worm instead of asthma? Lynette

Answer: In recent years, heartworm has been recognized as an important cardiovascular disease in cats. In general, the incidence of feline heartworm parallels that of canine heartworm in any geographical area. The disease has been found virtually worldwide. There are many differences between heartworm disease in dogs and cats that make both diagnosis and treatment very challenging. Cats usually only harbor from 3-5 adult worms (dogs arbor much more) that live in the heart and the pulmonary arteries. As well, aberrant migration of heartworm larvae into other body tissues (especially brain and skin) is more common in the cat than the dog. Most affected cats are between 3 and 6 years old. Interestingly, the incidence of feline heartworm is the same for indoor and outdoor cats. Some researchers feel that indoor cats are at higher risk, for they never have the chance to develop any resistance to infection. Infected cats may have no clinical signs at all, or they may have severe cardiac, lung or neurological symptoms. Cats suffer from more respiratory symptoms with heartworm than do dogs, leading some cats to be misdiagnosed with feline asthma. Even x-ray and airway wash results can mimic feline asthma. Symptoms can include coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, malaise, and chronic intermittent vomiting. There are two types of heartworm tests that can be performed on blood for cats. Antigen tests will be positive in only about 30% of cats with heartworm, mainly because of the low number of heartworms in infected cats. Antibody tests will detect about 95% of cats with heartworm infections, but they will also be positive in cats that have recently cleared an infection. In many cases, veterinarians will run both tests. Other tests used to aid in the diagnosis include x-rays and ultrasound. There are also a variety of nonspecific changes found on bloodwork. Treatment depends on the clinical symptoms the cat is exhibiting. In cats with mild or no clinical symptoms, supportive care is usually chosen. This consists mainly of prednisone, which is used to control the inflammatory process in the lungs. These cats will usually naturally clear their infection in 12 to 18 months. Cats with significant cardiovascular symptoms have a guarded prognosis. In some cases, attempts are made to kill the adult heartworms. However, adulticide therapy carries with it a high risk of toxicity to the cat and blood clot formation. Unfortunately, in some cats, the first and only symptom of heartworm disease is sudden death. Monthly preventatives are recommended for cats in any area where significant canine heartworm exists. Both ivermectin and milbemycin given once monthly are effective. Recently, a new topical anti-parasitic drug, Revolution, has been introduced which is also effective as a feline heartworm preventative.

Topic: Megaesophagus
Megaesophagus - I think I have a kitten with this condition.... so far the vet still needs to do an x-ray on her to confirm her condition, but his prognosis for this condition is not very encouraging.... She is only 10 weeks old and a real sweetheart.. If I can do anything for her, I would like to do that, rather than just put her down.... Do you have any recommendations? Aleida

Answer: Megaesophagus is very often a symptom of an underlying disease, rather than a disease in itself, in kittens. Perhaps the most common cause of megaesophagus in kittens is actually a cardiovascular congenital defect. A group of such defects are known as vascular ring anomalies. During fetal life, vessels in the chest reorganize to form the large vessels, such as the aorta. Some of the fetal vessels, called aortic arches, are supposed to close and disappear. The most common defect is called a persistent right aortic arch (PRAA). In PRAA, the right fourth aortic arch fails to develop properly, leaving a ligament that forms a band encircling the esophagus. This causes esophageal compression, so that over time, especially once the kitten is eating solid food, megaesophagus develops. PRAA can exist by itself or sometimes with other heart defects. A rarer form of megaesophagus is a congenital disease called esophageal hypomotility. It has not been well described in cats, but it does sometimes appear by itself or in conjunction with PRAA in dogs. Strictures of the esophagus can also cause megaesophagus in the portion of the esophagus above the stricture. Strictures can be caused by trauma, foreign bodies, or irritation from certain oral medications (most notably, the pill form of doxycycline). X-rays and endoscopy are used to make the diagnosis. Barium x-rays are helpful to outline the location and severity of the problem. They can also determine if a stricture is present. Treatment depends on the underlying reason for the megaesophagus. Congenital hypomotility may respond to some medications, but since it is not described in the cat, there is no specific information. PRAA can be surgically treated. Strictures can also be surgically repaired in many cases. If the megaesophagus was very large before surgery, some mild distention may persist, although in most cases, the dissension resolves once the problem is found and corrected. With kittens, the difficulty is in getting them to an adequate size and weight to withstand surgery. They are difficult to feed and aspiration pneumonia is a very common result, and may be life-threatening. Each case should be judged individually in order to determine the best course of action.

Topic: Constipated
I have a 7 week old kitten who appears to be constipated. She is eating canned kitten food mixed with dry and probably eating dry kitten food in between. Last night when I went to bathe her I noticed a poop stuck to her tail. There was another poop half in and half out. I applied some gentle pressure and popped it out. This morning after she ate I noticed her straining in the litter box. When I checked her butt it was open with another large poop in it. I gently expressed it out of her. She was in pain and cried while I did this. What can I give her to help her out? Maria

Answer: Constipation is sometimes seen in kittens in the 4-8 week age group. They have begun to eat solid food and their digestive tract has to meet the challenge of a solid diet. In general, I do not recommend giving any dry food to kittens under 10-12 weeks of age, because they may not be ready for it. Canned diets are easier to digest and contain more water, lessening the risk of constipation. When constipation is found, gentle massage can help relieve the passage of any stools that are apparent in the rectum. In some cases, warm water enemas may be needed to help break up the hard or firm stools and allow passage. Adding some cow's milk to the daily diet for a few days may help, since it is often laxative. Be sure the kitten is eating and drinking adequately, for any dehydration will only worsen the constipation. Subcutaneous fluid therapy is sometimes required to treat mild dehydration. Once the constipation has resolved, a canned diet should be fed until the kitten is older, when small amounts of dry food can then be introduced.

Topic: Breeding
I have a two year old male that has not started breeding. He wants to breed desperately. He mounts the girl and bites her neck until there is no hair left. He pushes her down with his legs, but he never seems to finish breeding her. He does this continually for hours. The girls gets so annoyed by the time they have lost all their rough and have marks from his teeth on their necks. What can I do to help him along? What do I need to do to get this boy breeding? He calls all the time and wants to breed. Have any ideas? Teri

Answer: While the desire to mate is instinctive, mating ability can vary widely from tom to tom. In general, young toms should be paired with experienced and patient queens for the first few breedings. They are more likely to learn good technique this way. Inexperienced queens will sometimes confuse the young tom and lead to poor breeding technique. For longhair cats, it is also important to check the penis regularly for a hair ring, which can form around the base and make it impossible for the tom to penetrate the queen. Teaching proper breeding technique to toms who have not acquired it by themselves can be frustrating. Again, be sure he is bred only to experienced and patient queens. Choose queens who are similar in body size to the tom, since larger or smaller queens are more challenging for the inexperienced tom to breed. You may have to aid him in positioning himself once the queen is in his grasp. Be sure there is enough room for both tom and queen to maneuver. Some toms are nervous in close quarters and won't complete the breeding. The tom must have a way to jump clear of the queen after breeding, preferably to a higher spot, such as a shelf. Toms who do not get enough exercise are also often poor breeders, so as much activity as possible should be encouraged. Obese toms or ones with health problems, especially dental disease or arthritis, may also be poor breeders. Occasionally, inexperienced toms learn by observing other more experienced toms mate queens. It does seem that when they do eventually get it right, they learn by leaps and bounds from there and become more experienced quite quickly.

Topic: Ivermectin
: I think my cat picked up fur mites at our last show. My beautiful chinchilla Persian started scratching the second day of the show and since we came home the scratching has increased. A good friend suggested I give her Ivermectin, that it is excellent at killing body mites. I need the dosage for either orally or by SQ. Preferably, SQ. However, I have heard that it is dangerous to do by SQ, that if too much is given that it will kill a Persian. I have never used Ivormec on my cats and am not experienced on this and would appreciate as much info as you can give me. Also, can it be given to pregnant and lactating moms, and how young on kits can it be given? I appreciate all your help in advance. Jan

Answer: Ivermectin can be dangerous no matter what route it is given by if the dose is not measured correctly, especially for small cats and kittens. It is essential to know what strength the formulation you are working with is, to weigh your cats, and to calculate each cat's dose accurately. If you do these things, it is not common to have problems with ivermectin. Please be very careful - it worries me a lot when I see people posting drug doses like - give 0.1 ml per lb - to the list. Ivermectin is sold in different formulations and you CANNOT safely say what the correct amount of drug is without also mentioning the strength of the product you are using. Please check and double check your doses. And when you post a dose to the list, I implore you, PLEASE state what strength of drug you are talking about. I'll sleep better at night :-) The dose given SC (subcutaneously) depends on what you are trying to treat, but typical doses range from 200 to 400 micrograms/kg. It is safe to use in pregnancy in all species. With kittens, I don't like treating ones below 10-12 weeks old or very small kittens of any age, since they are more at risk from an adverse effect. It also gets hard to measure the dose accurately at small body weights and mistakes are more easily made.

Topic: Mastitis
I have a queen with four 18- day-old kittens who has mastitis. The area around one teat is very swollen. She is on amoxi now, but I´m wondering if there is anything else one should do. The kittens have lost some weight and they are now being supplemented, but they still feed from mum too and also from the affected teat. As I´ve never had a female with this problem before I´d be grateful for all advice. Anne

Answer: Warm compresses can help relieve the swelling. Watch for abscessation, which sometimes happens. Whether or not to remove the kittens when the queen has mastitis is a controversial issue. Here is what I do: I do not remove the kittens unless absolutely necessary. It is uncommon for them to develop diarrhea or other illness from nursing on a queen with mastitis. Likewise, they are not often affected by the antibiotic the queen is taking since only about 2% of the antibiotic dose is excreted in the queen's milk. I do remove the kittens if the queen is too uncomfortable to nurse them, if the queen is systemically ill, if the gland abscesses, or if more than one gland is seriously involved. Otherwise, I think the kittens benefit from being with mom and she benefits by having them nurse on the affected gland (if she can tolerate it) because it improves healing.

Topic: Eye Problem
: I have a 4 month-old kitten who, at 6 weeks, had a nasty URI and his eye was very affected -- swollen at the time. Now his 3rd eyelid is fused to the cornea. The eye tears a little and sometimes looks cloudy, some days looks fine. I was wondering if anyone has any ideas to help it, at this late stage. He was just neutered and the vet looked closely at the eye to see if he could free the 3rd eyelid at that time, but said it was grown together all across the eye. Any thoughts? Could Vit A help this? Sheila

Answer: With severe herpesvirus infections, we do sometimes see situations where the intense inflammation causes the third eyelid to adhere to the cornea. These adhesions can be broken down and an attempt to restore the normal anatomy of the eye should be made. If your vet feels uncomfortable doing this, ask for a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist. Vitamin A will not improve this eye. Several years ago, it was quite a fad to use vitamin A for corneal ulcers. However, studies did not bear out the effectiveness of this treatment. I don't use it and the ophthalmologists I have worked with don't either. I think it is safe, it just doesn't work very well.

Topic: Teeth
I have checking my cat's teeth a few days ago, and found a strange red gum growing in her lower jaw, in one of her molars. I tried to get it out thinking it was a piece of meat, but it hurt. This red tissue growing comes out of the gum and looks like it's invading the whole molar surface. I contacted my dentist (my vet is on a holiday trip) and he told me it's not a serious thing, but if it persists, my cat had to go under surgery. I can't figure out what is it, or what is the cause. Both of my cats eat dry food (Purina's Meow Mix), moisten food (Purina) and lately, red meat which I cut into medium pieces, so that they can work them out with their teeth. Can somebody tell me what's wrong with my cat's red gums?. Cindy

Answer: If you are seeing a lump or discrete mass of red gum tissue next to a tooth, then it is likely there is a lesion on the tooth and the gum has grown up into the cavity. Cat's teeth get lesions called odontoclastic resorptive lesions which are similar to, but not the same, as human caries. Your vet can quickly tell you if this is the case and can then advise you what options are available. Odontoclastic lesions (also called neck lesions or cervical line lesions) are very painful for the cat, so they do need to be treated. I'm not so sure how likely I'd be to ask a human dentist about cat teeth. My dentist is very good, but she still expressed surprise that cats: a) have more than a few teeth, b) that the teeth have roots, c) that they need to be cleaned, c) that they get lesions at all.

Topic: False Pregnancy
I have a queen who I believe to be pregnant for her first time and was looking for some input from you all. She is 1 1/2 yrs. old now, her heat only lasted for 5 short days instead of going for her normal 2-3 weeks, which is also why I believe she may be pregnant because her heat ended so shortly after it began, hence, ovulation??? I didn't witness the exact day she was breed (worked a lot that week) but I did see mating going on. After about 3 wks. her nipples pinked up, she has been eating like a total hog, sleeping ALL day and night, and her abdomen is distended. She is not the type of Persian to always want to be held, as a matter of fact she only puts up with about 30 seconds at a time, until about two weeks ago. Now she even wants to sleep with me. I have had her to the vet for an ultrasound just to double check because if she isn't preg. than she is ill because she has vomited 3 times in the past 3 weeks in the a.m. and had loose bowls two times. So I wanted to make sure she was pregnant. Well the DVM says, yes her tummy and uterus are distended and he was able to feel a few lumps when palpating her abdomen but the ultrasound doesn't show any fetus development at this point. He says at 28 days they should be able to see the fetus w/an ultrasound. So even if my queen was bred on the 25th of Dec. that would put her at 32 days today at the least. So the DVM proceeded to explain about false pregnancies and that the queen will experience physical signs of pregnancy even right down to nesting if she were having a false pregnancy. Have any of you got any thoughts on false pregnancies? Is it something seen often? I have no statistics on this, have never had it happen, that I know of, and don't know what to think really at this point. I am supposed to bring her back in a week for a second ultrasound but wanted to discuss this now of course! Thank you in advance, Caryl

Answer: A few things I will point out:

1) the length of heat in a cat is not affected by whether or not the cat ovulates

2) ultrasound can detect pregnancy in the cat as early as 10-14 days. Fetal hearts can be seen beating by 22 to 24 days. By 28 days, ultrasound is 99% reliable for detecting pregnancy. Having said that, a lot depends on the quality of the equipment and the skill of the ultrasonographer.

3) newer methods of pregnancy detection in the dog, such as the blood text for relaxin, may also be useful in the cat. Although it has not yet been extensively evaluated in cats, relaxin may be a reliable marker of pregnancy at about 25-28 days and it can distinguish pregnancy from pyometra or false pregnancy.

4) false pregnancies tend to last 35 to 45 days in the cat. They are the result of an ovulation that did not progress into conception, or resulted in very early embryonic loss.

Topic: Palpating for pregnancy
Can you explain the proper hand technique and the position of the cat when palpitating for pregnancy? Just not sure if the cat should be lying or standing and the proper position of my fingers for palpitation...... Should I be feeling her "Sides" Like where the uterine horns are or lower down, etc...??? I plan on having the vet show me the next time I go in but for now I have 2 girls that I am really wondering about! And curiosity........ LOL Any help is appreciated. Thanks so much. Kathy

Answer: I find it hard to explain how to palpate a cat without demonstrating it ! Vets do it with the cat standing and facing away from them. I use both hands, although some vets use one hand only. You start near the rib cage and feel for each palpable abdominal organ: small intestine, colon, kidneys, bladder, etc (the stomach is not palpable unless it is very full). The uterus lies between the colon and the bladder and until you are experienced at it, you can mistake either a partly full bladder or fecal masses in the colon for kittens. Practice makes perfect.

Topic: Extracting Teeth
What do you think about having all a cat's teeth pulled? I have an older, maybe 10 years +, rescued cat from a few years ago and he has problems eating, he wants to eat but then it hurts. When this started I took him in for a cleaning and to check for bad teeth, all that was pretty normal and he has no other problems really. Another vet told me that sometimes the tooth enamel attacks the gums, or vice versa, and the only solution was to pull all of the teeth or some kind of gold injections. I have heard people say in the past that they'd had this done to a cat and the cat did fine, able to eat afterwards , but I'd like to hear from someone who's been through this as to the recovery period and would they do it again ? This is causing a weight loss of course and I hate to see him want to eat and then the pain it causes so I need to either do something about the teeth or euthanize him, and he really has been a sweet boy so I'd like to do what's the best thing for him, would this allow him a longer good quality life or would I just be doing this more for me to keep him longer than for him ? Please let me know what your experience has been. Thank you. Sue

Answer: Yes, sometimes it is necessary to extract most or all of a cat's teeth in a case of refractory dental disease in order to relieve pain and improve quality of life. My experience is that cats do very well after such procedures. Adequate pain control is imperative. However, this is only done when all other medical measures have failed. Other strategies might involve treatment with medications (corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs, antibiotics for anaerobic infections), meticulous dental care involving both daily home care and scheduled cleanings, and sometimes topical treatments such as chlorhexidine. Especially for a stray cat, an FeLV and FIV test should be done. Gold salt injections are one of the least used treatments because cats may have adverse effects from them. They are used for immunosuppression. If there is a veterinarian specializing in dentistry near you, it would be worth a second opinion to be sure all treatment options have been explored.

Topic: Chin Acne
I have an Exotic short hair with acne. I consider it severe but I have not seen this before so I have no way of comparing. Every day I wash his total head with baby shampoo, and then Benxol Peroxide scrub to areas not close to the eyes. I then apply Benzol Peroxide ointment. Antibiotic ointment seems to work better but the next day it is back to same routine with no improvement. Do you have any experience with this and/or any ideas of what can be done. Thanks Clydene

Answer: Chin acne is a multifactorial problem and may take some experimentation to find the best treatment for individual cats. An attempt should be made to find the cause if possible since this will make specific therapy possible. Causes such as contact allergies to plastic (i.e. food and water bowls), food allergies, and dermatophytosis (ringworm) are some of the potential ones. Uncomplicated acne consists of comedones (blackheads). If the skin becomes infected it can lead to folliculitis. In this case, the skin will be reddened, swollen and may bleed easily. Some diagnostic testing is possible to try to determine a cause, such as cytology on cells from the chin, and bacterial and fungal cultures. Cleansing is an important part of therapy, but it must be done very gently. For long-haired cats, cleaning and treatment will be more effective if the hair on the chin is shaved. Using warm compresses can help to open pores, especially if the skin is infected. Then gentle cleaning can be done with a product containing 2.5% benzoyl peroxide. Topical antibiotics can be used if indicated, such as erythromycin (Cleocin-T), mupirocin (Bactroban) or metronidazole (Metrogel). Removing plastic food and water bowls may help. In selected difficult cases, antiflammatory medications used short term may help. No matter what the type of treatment, the goal is long term control. The prognosis for control of the disease is good, but relapses are very common.

Topic: Diarrhea
My queen (Himi)delivered 1 kitten - doing great a real butter ball when we started weaning him he would go from hard to lose bowel - had a slid done just for GP's all is well - now he is 12 weeks - has lost weight - eating well - bowel movement is lose than hard - he is actually losing bowel while he sleeps - have added more fiber to his diet - plus the plain yogurt - the vets have wormed him for round worm even though he did not have it and now put him on Alabon even though he does not have coccidia also no presents of Giardia checked for that since we are on well water - just don't know what to do next - you can feed him put him in the litter box and he has a hard bowel movement and 5 minutes later it is running out his rectum - when he is hungry he cries and acts like something is hurting him we just don't know what to do next. We also had blood stats done - they are on the money - he seems to be just fading away. Thanks for your advice. JoJo

Answer: Diarrhea that occurs at the time of weaning is a common problem in kittens. The causes can be multi-factorial and range from intestinal parasites, viral infections, to food intolerances, to name just a few. In some cases, it is suspected that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth plays a role and treatment with a short course of amoxicillin or other broad-spectrum antibiotic may be helpful. In chronic cases, a full diagnostic work up is indicated, including complete blood count, serum biochemistries and feline leukemia virus testing (if the cattery's status is not known). Testing for intestinal parasites is also necessary. This may include routine fecal floatation, direct fecal smears and DNA enteric pathogen testing (if available). It is often advisable to deworm using a broad-spectrum dewormer such as fenbendazole (Panacur) regardless. In some cases, highly digestible or hypoallergenic diets may be helpful. Finally, I have seen some cases of inflammatory bowel disease in kittens under 6 months of age. These may be severe cases and some of these kittens never have normal bowel movements from the time of weaning. If all else is ruled out, intestinal biopsies should be considered.

Topic: Milk Replacers
Question: I have a 12 day old preemie who I suspect has an impacted bowel. I gave her warm water enemas and got out a little over 1 inch of hard poop. Also gave her 4 cc Ringers subQ. She seems to be pepping up a bit, but is there anything else I can/should do? She is being supplemented as mom is not a good one and has very little milk. Thanks. Mary

Answer: One of the common problems with feeding milk replacers to kittens is either diarrhea or constipation. A good milk replacer will provide adequate nutrition with enough water to prevent constipation and dehydration. Milk replacers that are too dilute will cause diarrhea and poor growth; milk replacers that are too concentrated will cause constipation and dehydration. The first thing to do is to evaluate your choice of milk replacer. It may be that you should switch to another product. In the meantime, giving supplemental fluids is very important and should help reverse the constipation. Very young kittens can become fatally ill very quickly. You should weigh the kitten daily and aim for a steady growth rate of about 10 grams per day or more. One of the first signs of trouble may be failure to gain weight. If the kitten is not doing well, you should also seek the advice of your veterinarian who may be required to help stabilize the kitten.

Topic: Hyperthyroid
My 13 year old cat has just been diagnosed with an over active thyroid. I took him to the vet's for his yearly checkup and she noticed that his thyroid was enlarged (I also had noticed a swelling on his neck, which is another reason why I took him to the vet's). Blood work was done and all came back in the normal range, except the thyroid test. (4.0 is the norm, my cat's was 5.5).

Here are the 3 choices I was given for treatment..

1. oral meds for the rest of his life
2. surgery to remove the bad thyroid
3. radioactive injection

I would appreciate your opinion. Lila

Answer: Hyperthyroidism is one of the common medical problems in older cats. It is even occasionally seen in young and middle-aged cats, although most affected patients are over 8 yrs old. Fortunately, we now have several treatment choices. Medical treatment involves giving anti-thyroid medications - the most common of which is methimazole (Tapazole) - either short-term (before surgery or radioiodine therapy) or long term. Surgery and radioiodine are both permanent cures. Each has its own pros and cons, and the choice of treatment should be made on an individual bases. Cost, ease of medicating the patient, and concurrent health problems all play a role in making decisions. Many older cats with hyperthyroidism also have concurrent kidney failure and efforts should be made to rule this out before a final treatment decision is made. Hyperthyroidism masks the symptoms of kidney failure and even affects blood tests for kidney function. For some cats with concurrent kidney failure, surgery or radioiodine treatment of hyperthyroidism may be followed by worsening kidney failure in the months afterward. For these cats, medical treatment with methimazole is a better option for managing both the kidney and thyroid diseases.

Topic: Interstitial Cystitis
Do you have any suggestions for treatment of of interstitial cystitis? Patti

Answer: Unfortunately, I see many patients with interstitial cystitis (also called idiopathic cystitis). It is a sterile, inflammatory disease of the bladder in cats that is chronic and painful. Patients typically have periods of normalcy between flare-ups. Symptoms include painful urination, blood in the urination and frequent voiding of small amount of urine. In many ways, it is a diagnosis of exclusion (ruling out dietary problems, infections, stones etc) but definitive diagnosis may be established with a bladder biopsy. An ultrasound can help rule out bladder stones and evaluate the bladder wall. There is no drug that helps all IC patients. Amitriptyline (Elavil) is the most commonly prescribed drug. We also use supplements that provide glycosaminoglycans (substances that help repair the bladder wall) such as glucosamine or the human drug Elmiron. Anafen (ketoprofen) can provide pain relief during bad flare ups. And finally, feeding only canned food (no dry), and usually a pH-balanced diet like Walthams pH control, can be helpful. Stressful times can provoke flare-ups in these patients, so avoiding stressors is also a good idea.

Topic: Valerian
Have you used Valerian to calm a cat? How well does it work? How much for a 9 pound cat? Louise

Answer: We use the Dorwest valerian and skullcap in our practice. Dorwest is a British company that makes veterinary herbal products. I've used their valerian for several years now, and have seen no adverse effects in my patients. It is helpful for overcoming mild stresses, anxieties or apprehensions. It won't calm a very fearful or very stressed cat, though. Best for minor problems.

Topic: Air Filtration
I would be interested in hearing your opinion of air filtration and
purification units in a multi-cat environment. I know that a number of
breeders swear by them as an eliminator of airborne bacteria and virus, but I have yet to find any documentation to support their use as anything other than an odor-reducer. What do you think? Holly

Answer: I agree with you that it is hard to evaluate the claims of such devices. I also do not know of any independent evidence that such devices can eliminate airborne pathogens. These devices cannot replace good husbandry and cleaning practices. Every breeder needs to have a well thought out protocol for cleaning and disinfecting. I believe that we should concentrate on reviewing these practices first, and ensure we are doing the best we can, before we invest in devices with dubious claims. Most viruses and bacteria do not remain airborne for a very long time (especially the respiratory viruses), so I do have personal doubts about the effectiveness in the real world.

Topic: Virgin Stud
I have a 2 yo male that has never sired any kittens. I have had 2
different queens with him. One very patient and experiences and one new queen. He has made no attempt to breed either of them. The new queen was very interested in him but he paid no attention to her. The experienced queen is not interested in him but is interested in a 1 yo neutered male we have. The neutered male had one testicle external and one under his bladder. Is it possible that the neutering was unsuccessful? Is there any way to find out if the 2 yo is capable of breeding? I await your expert opinion! Arla

Answer: Breeding behavior in male cats is influenced by many things: genetics,
environment, and learning. Any previous bad experiences, especially when the male is young, can adversely influence his willingness to breed in the future. Inexperienced males should always be paired with experienced, calm and patient queens for the first one or two breedings. Also be sure his environment is clean and not stressful. Crowded or unclean conditions, or environmental stresses (such as noise, temperature fluctuations, etc.) can all adversely affect breeding performance.

You should have your cat examined by your vet to be sure there are no previously unknown health problems. Special attention should be paid to the penis and testicles, to be sure they are normal. If all is well, I would first continue to have patience with this male and give him a few more chances to breed. You don't mention what breed he is, but in some breeds, both males and females may not be ready to breed until as late as 3 years.

If all else fails, you should consider whether you really want this male in your breeding program. You would not want to inadvertently pass on any poor breeding tendencies. It is possible to use hormonal drug treatment to improve libido. While you might think testosterone could be used for this purpose, this would be a bad idea. Giving supplemental testosterone can actually risk decreasing sperm counts. So instead, we give GnRH (also called gonadorelin, brand name Cystorelin). This is given by injection about 30 min. before breeding. It will cause a temporary increase in testosterone, which might stimulate the male's libido enough to attempt breeding.

As to your neutered male with the retained testicle, the best person to ask about the surgery would be the vet who performed it. It is possible to tell if a cat still has a retained testicle present by examining the penis. A mature, intact male cat (with one or two testicles) has rows of spines on the penis that are easy to see. After neutering, these spines disappear within a few weeks. If one testicle is left intact, there will still be
enough testosterone provided for the spines to remain on the penis. So check the penis and you will have your answer.

Topic: Conjunctivitis
: I seem to have a conjunctivitis going through my cattery. There always
seems to be a kitten or two with sore eyes. My vet and I have tried
several different things but it seems to come back again. What do you suggest? Linda

Answer: Conjunctivitis in cats can be due to different pathogens. It would be a good idea to try to find out which pathogen is responsible in your case. Sometimes more than one is involved. Infections such as viruses, Chlamydia and Mycoplasma can be responsible for conjunctivitis in cats. Many labs are now offering DNA-based tests for pathogens, especially herpesvirus and Chlamydia. I would ask your vet to investigate what testing is available in your area. Another option would be a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist in order to attempt a specific diagnosis. While viral causes of conjunctivitis are not curable, it might be necessary for you to change your vaccination program to get better control. Chlamydia is a treatable cause of conjunctivitis, typically with oral drugs such as doxycycline or azithromycin and topical drugs such as tetracycline.

Topic: One testicle
I have a very beautiful kitten which has only one testicle. Is having
only one testicle a health danger? Is it inherited? Ira

Answer: In cats, having only one testicle descended into the scrotum is called
cryptorchidism. The undescended testicle could be present inside the
abdomen or under the skin in the groin area. While an undescended testicle is not associated with any health problems in male cats, it is still desirable to have the cat castrated and both testicles removed.
Cryptorchidism is inherited in cats, so that breeding such cats is not a
good choice. In order to have a neutered pet free of all intact male cat
behaviors, both testicles must be removed.

Topic: My kitten is cycling
: I have a 6 month old Exotic female who has already cycles 3 times.
What do you think of Ovaban or what other drugs are available to stop a kitten from cycling? Betty

Answer: We always have to consider very carefully before we use the synthetic progesterones like Ovaban in cats. There are definite risks as well as some potential benefits, depending on the circumstances. It does worry me to use Ovaban in a young queen that is cycling often, since there is a significant risk of uterine disease. I would be more inclined to try to induce ovulation and a false pregnancy (using a vasectomized male, or a sham breeding with a thermometer or Q-tip) rather than Ovaban. Both methods, Ovaban and a false breeding, fool the cat's body into thinking she is pregnant. Both methods cause an increase in progesterone level. After a false breeding, the cat usually stays out of heat an average of 6 weeks. Cats taking Ovaban stay out of heat as long as the drug is being given. Even with false breedings, there is still a risk of uterine disease in some queens.

Much also depends on your plans for a show career for this queen (a short vs. a long career), how valuable her bloodline is to your breeding program, and what the history is in her immediate family of uterine disease and infertility. If you only need to keep her out of heat a short time to show her and she does not have a history in her immediate family of uterine problems, you could consider using Ovaban. It is safest to use this drug in the queen is not in heat, and with a low dose, such as 2.5 mg weekly, to keep her out of heat. Once you stop the drug, you should let the first heat pass, but breed her on the second heat.

With long term use, Ovaban does carry risks such as the development of diabetes, skin disorders, and inflammation or cancer of the mammary glands. It can also predispose the queen's uterus to cystic endometrial hyperplasia and pyometra.

These queens that start cycling early and cycle often are a great challenge to manage. Often we are put in a position of deciding which is more important - breeding the queen or showing her.

Topic: Joint Malformation
I just returned from the vet with a 2 month old kitten who would not put any weight on his front leg. The vet took x-rays and it seems that the socket that the shoulder joint moves in never developed. He said as she grows and gets heavier, this may become painful and we will have to amputate the leg. He conjectured that it was either a birth defect or some damage at birth? He had never seen it it before and I was wondering if you have ever seen anything like this? Helen

Answer: From time to time we do see malformations of bones or joints in kittens. They may or may not have significance in adult life. I would say that it is very rare than amputation is needed and it should only be considered as a last resort. They may be another surgical option if needed.

I'd encourage you to have an orthopedic surgeon look at this kitten and the x-rays. If one is not in your area, you can ask your vet to send the x-rays to a specialist for a second opinion. Given your vet has never seen this before, I think it would be wise to get another opinion. I often do if I am not sure.

Topic: Cystitis
I almost lost a young cat to cystitis. I took her in for weight loss and failure to thrive. I was told cats never get bladder infections (and I have a textbook that says that too). Later I noticed she seemed to always be in the litter box in the pee position. I took her to another vet who expressed urine, which by this time contained pus. He told me cats get this all the time. He put her on amoxi. Next day she was looking blue! So I took her in and was referred to emergency clinic for possible blood transfusion. I finally ended up at the cardiologist with an echo showing dilated cardiomyopathy.

She finally recovered from the bladder infection after 2 -3 weeks of amoxi. The turning blue episodes abruptly went away and a follow up echo 6 months later showed a totally normal heart. I learned from this episode is that dilated cardio is actually an adaptive response to sepsis - is temporary - and correlates with improved survival - this from studies in humans and dogs. Comments? Heidi

Answer: It is true that bladder infections are uncommon in cats - they account for less than 5% of lower urinary tract disease. However, there are two main exceptions to this. One is in young kittens, who certainly can and do get bacterial cystitis. The other is in cats with any disease causing dilute urine - i.e. kidney failure, diabetes, etc. Dilute urine loses its protective advantage against bacterial infection.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a cardiac disease of cats most often caused by taurine deficiency - this is well studied and documented in the literature and indeed, in real life. There are still some cats who get DCM and do not have taurine deficiency and we do not understand the cause of the disease in these cases, although there is some tantalizing information that it might be hereditary. Not having seen the echocardiogram on Heidi's kitten, I can't comment about the changes or causes, but it is certainly true that we can see evidence of cardiac dysfunction on an ultrasound that is related to disease elsewhere in the body, especially when major physiological changes occur (i.e. dehydration, over-hydration, sepsis, etc). These changes are reversible and would technically not be called by the same name (i.e. DCM) as a cardiac disease with other causes. I hope everyone understands this point - I don't want any confusion over the causes of DCM in cats.

Topic: Lutyase
I had a problem with a female not seeming to go out of heat and /or conceiving after being bred several times. I was hoping that using Lutalyse would solve the problem. I understand the first time Lutalyse was used was with cattle breeders. Can you explain why they were using it then? (I heard it was to time estrus to begin at the same time.) Not because of PYO. Is Lutalyse like luteinizing hormone, the hormone produced in the brain by complex, usually stimulated by breeding, that causes the mature ovarian follicles to ovulate? Vicki

Answer:Lutalyse is a brand name for a natural prostaglandin. There are several different prostaglandins on the market, some of which are synthetic. The synthetic ones are not used in cats since they are likely too powerful. So we only use Lutalyse, which is specifically prostaglandin F-2alpha. An alternate name for it you will sometimes see used is dinoprost tromethamine. Lutalyse is actually only labeled for use in cattle, not small animals, despite its long history of use in dogs and cats.

You are going to have to indulge me in a short lesson on reproduction to explain why this drug is used differently in large animals versus cats. In cattle, it is a luteolytic agent. This means that it is able to shut down a structure on the ovary called the corpus luteum (CL). A CL forms on the ovary for every ovarian follicle that ovulates an egg. The function of the CL is to produce progesterone, which is the dominant hormone in pregnancy (and false pregnancy). So while the CLs are producing progesterone, the cow will not come back into heat. Cattle farmers, especially dairy farmers, give Lutalyse to cattle to shut down the CL with the subsequent drop in progesterone levels. This will cause the cow to come into heat as new follicles will now develop on the ovary and produce estrogen. Farmers, for efficiency reasons, want their dairy cattle to come into heat and be bred in groups. So they give Lutalyse to a group of cows, it lyses their CLs, more ovarian follicles develop, and the cows all come into heat (and get bred) around the same time. Another use for Lutalyse in cattle is similar to the use in cats - it causes uterine contractions and so can treat pyometra or cause abortions.

It turns out that in cats, prostaglandins have a poor ability to shut down a CL. In scientific terms, the drug is not luteolytic in cats. At one time, it was assumed that because it was in other species, it was luteolytic in cats too. But over the years, if we have learned one thing in feline medicine, it is that they don't follow the rules of other species!

So Lutalyse will not shut down a CL in cats, and therefore won't promote a return to heat when the cat is in a false pregnancy (it would be nice if it could, but it can't). The only use we can get from Lutalyse is to cause uterine contractions for treatment of pyometra (or abortion, but there are better drugs for medical abortion in cats).

If you are still with me, I will answer the second part of your question. LH (luteinizing hormone) is not the same as Lutalyse (despite the similarity in names). LH is a natural hormone produced in the brain (specifically in the anterior pituitary) that causes ovulation of mature follicles on ovaries. There is no synthetic or exogenous version of LH (in other words, you can't buy it).

Hope this helps clarify things a bit further. It is very important that we understand exactly what these drugs are and what they do in cats before we use them.

Topic: Prednisone and Pregnancy
I have a queen who is pregnant. She has some allergies for which she takes Prednisone which helps alot to reduce her sneezing. Can I keep giving her the Prednisone while she is pregnant? Jerry

Answer: Prednisone (and all corticosteroids) are contraindicated in pregnancy. While we do not have good information for the cat, these drugs are suspected to cause cleft palates in other species and also may interfere with some aspects of the pregnancy.

Topic: Vaccine Reaction
I had a kitten have an allergic reaction when he received his routine vaccination. I am now concerned about whether to give him another vaccination because the first one didn't work or what? Do I need to have him re-vaccinated? Linda

Answer: No, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that animals that
experience vaccine reactions fail to produce immunity. In fact, there is certainly evidence to the contrary.

However, depending on the severity of the reaction, a way should be found to provide any necessary boosters. The cat should be vaccinated only for diseases it absolutely needs protection against. A change in vaccine type might help. Dividing boosters into separate injections, rather than all at once, might help. And we often pre-treat these patients to help reduce the severity of a reaction (such as with an antihistamine, or a short-acting corticosteroid, or an anti-inflammatory).

Topic: Prolapsed Rectum
Question: I recently had a kitten who developed some diarrhea while adjusting from mother's milk to solid food. Then one morning when I woke up she had a huge red "thing" hanging out her butt. I took her to the vet immediately and he said she had a prolapsed rectum. Why did this happen? Is there something I could have done to have prevented it?Helen

Answer: Rectal prolapses most often occur in kittens under 4 months of age. They can occur in response to several initiating causes, but in kittens, diarrhea or urinary tract disease are the most likely. Rectal prolapses can also occur due to cancer of the bowel, foreign bodies, dystocia or FLUTD (formerly called FUS). In the veterinary literature, only Manx cats are listed as predisposed to rectal prolapses.

The everted rectal tissue is usually swollen and reddened. Over time, the tissue can become ulcerated or necrotic (tissue dies). Some kittens appear to be in pain and will strain with prolapses, while others will not. It is very important to differentiate a simple rectal prolapse from intussusception of the colon since both conditions look similar. Intussusception usually causes partial or complete bowel obstruction.

When treating a rectal prolapse, vets try to identify and correct the
underlying cause if possible. If the prolapse is not large and present only a short time, a conservative approach to treating it can be taken. The prolapsed tissue is carefully cleaned and then reduced manually using a water-soluble lubricant. A purse-string suture in the anus is used to prevent recurrences. The suture stays in place for 7 to 10 days and the cat is often put on a low-residue diet and stool softeners for a few weeks.

If the prolapse cannot be reduced or recurs, then surgery is required. A technique called a colopexy fixes the colon to the abdominal wall
internally so it cannot prolapse. In severe cases, where the prolapsed
tissue is badly damaged, it may need to be amputated and an anastomosis surgery performed.

Topic: Using light to induce cycling
I've heard a few breeders talk about "lighting" females in order to bring
them into season. Is this a common practice? Does it work? Is there a
special technique or type of light that is needed? What are the side
effects? Thanks. Nicky

Answer: I think you are talking about increasing the amount of daylight a female
cat is exposed to in order to bring her into heat. Ideally, queens should
be exposed to about 12-14 hours of daylight or artificial equivalent in
order for them to cycle year round and not according to the season.

Shorter daylight (which coincides with the winter months in the northern
hemisphere) tends to suppress heat cycles naturally. If a queen has not
been coming into heat regularly and she has been receiving less than 14 hrs of daylight per day, the first step is to correct the daylight problem.

We typically phase in the increase in light; start at 10 hrs per day for the
first week, then 12 hrs per day for the second week, and then 14 hrs per day for every week thereafter.

Topic: Discouraging a spraying male
How successful is ovaban to discourage a male spraying and what dosage do you recommend? Lynn

Answer: Ovaban (megestrol acetate) is a drug of last resort for treating
behavioral problems like spraying. Ovaban is a progesterone-like hormone and it can be associated with a whole host of adverse side effects, such as diabetes mellitus and cancer. Therefore, it is a drug we would use only as a last resort before euthanasia. It would not be advisable for a breeding male to take Ovaban.

We usually concentrate on reducing the environmental factors that promote spraying in cats first before we reach for drugs. This may mean changing the way a cat is housed to decrease social pressures from cats he lives with, or can see or hear. It may also be helpful to use the synthetic pheromone spray called Feliway. This spray is used on objects in the cat's environment that he likes to mark. The purpose is to increase the marking behavior by facial rubbing and decrease urine marking.

If we do resort to drug therapy in spraying cats, we can use a variety of
drugs such as Buspar (buspirone), Paxil (paroxetine) and Elavil
(amitriptyline), to name a few. Any cat taking these medications should
have a blood panel first to ensure there is no preexisting liver or kidney
problems that would prevent us from administering the drug. These drugs all come with a variety of side effects and your veterinarian should discuss them with you as well as what steps are needed to monitor the patient. These drugs are all human medications, and so are used off-label in veterinary patients. We also do not know the effects of these medications on male fertility, so their use in breeding males may not be advisable.

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